Homemade Dishwasher Soap (Not Detergent)

In my seemingly never-ending pursuit of an acceptable HOMEMADE version of something to clean dishes in the dishwasher…I think I may have finally hit on something GOOD! I’m personally pretty excited…but I’m kinda weird that way. lol.

Yesterday I decided to do a little more research on this subject because I’ve had several people ask recently about a LIQUID dishwasher detergent option. After reading THOUSANDS of websites/blogs and MILLIONS of comments (well it SEEMED like it!)…I still have not found an acceptable homemade liquid version. Yet.

BUT….while I was reading the MILLIONS of comments I came across a “dishwasher recipe” by someone named Babsy that intrigued me enough to give it a try. (thenewhomemaker.com)

It’s not a RECIPE per se (because you don’t need to mix it up beforehand)…but a combination of liquid soap and oxygen bleach, with a vinegar chaser as a rinse aid. Babsy said she used liquid castile soap as the soap part of this recipe…but I tried that and while the dishes/glasses LOOKED pretty clean…there was still a powdery film on them.

I almost gave up at that point….but decided to try the method one more time, this time using Dawn Dish Soap. I was actually a little afraid to open the dishwasher when it was finished because I didn’t think my heart could take another disappointment, but this time I was TICKLED PINK with what I found! All the dishes appeared to be CLEAN, CLEAR and FILM FREE!

Here are some pictures I took to TRY and show the sparkly-ness of the glasses.

Here is the “recipe” I used:

1 teaspoon oxygen bleach (I bought a 5 lb bucket of SUN brand at the Dollar store for about $3)
1/2 teaspoon Dawn dish soap
1/2 cup white vinegar (poured into a bowl or cup on the top rack of the machine)

The nice thing about this is there is no need to mix up a big batch…so there are no clumping/hardening issues to deal with. All you need is a teaspoon to add the oxygen bleach to the dispenser and then you can add the Dawn directly from the squeeze bottle (just eyeball it).

Finally, find a small container that can sit upright in the top basket and fill it with 1/2 cup vinegar. I have been using vinegar as a rinse aid for a long time…but I usually just pour it into the bottom of the dishwasher when I start it up. By putting the vinegar in a bowl or cup, it will overfill as the cycles goes on, and the diluted vinegar will be evenly dispersed throughout the dishwasher.

I know that MANY people put vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser…but I’ve tried that and it hasn’t worked for me.

A word of caution. Don’t use MORE than 1/2 teaspoon of the Dawn dish soap or you could have a sudsy overflowon your hands. That being said, if you peek in the dishwasher during the wash cycle…you WILL see a fair amount of suds. Don’t be alarmed. It’s just “washing” your dishes! It will be gone when the cycle ends.

In conclusion….I realize that this homemade dishwasher cleaning stuff is tricky business! What worked for me may not work for you! But hey…it MIGHT….and if you’re interested….now you know how. :-)


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  1. Anonymous says

    Perfect timing Jill! I was just about to use a hammer on the major clumps from my last batch of powdered homemade dishwasher detergent! I really look forward to using this Oh-So-Easy solution!!!

    Thanks again!!!

    • Leah says

      DO NOT TRY THIS! I have just tried it and I have had a HUGE leak all over my very expensive laminate flooring costing me hundreds of pounds to put right! You’re NOT supposed to out dish washing liquid in a dishwasher you dunce! I should have known. Beware! The suds escape the machine and go everywhere!

      • Christie says

        Name calling, how mature. How old ARE you?
        She literally said, “In conclusion….I realize that this homemade dishwasher cleaning stuff is tricky business! What worked for me may not work for you! But hey…it MIGHT….and if you’re interested….now you know how. :-)”
        “A word of caution. Don’t use MORE than 1/2 teaspoon of the Dawn dish soap or you could have a sudsy overflowon your hands.”

        Some peoples children….smh.

      • Natasha says

        I love how the author is the dunce because YOU tried her recipe and it ruined YOUR “expensive floor” before doing research yourself first even though you apparently knew that you’re not suppose to use dish dawn in a dish washer. Everyone has to blame someone other than themselves for their own mistakes.

      • Stephanie says

        First off that is not a nice name to call any one. Second you probably have put to much soap in. I have an apartment sized dishwasher (smaller then a normal one) and it worked fine for me.

      • says

        That’s too bad leah I shortened this recipe to about one drop of dawn because it’s too sudsy! And my dishes were sparkling! However my local dollar store sells dawn and on the back of the bottle it says to not put into dishwasher!

  2. Anonymous says

    Thank you for including a print friendly button. With all that is going on with Tide your solutions are the best. Thanks again for all your hard work to find the best formula for us to use.

  3. Jill Nystul says

    Anony…here is a link that explains the difference between soap and detergent. It's short and to the point. :-)

    Basically, soap is made from natural ingredients and detergent is made from synthetic (man-made) ingredients. However, even though it sounds like a no-brainer, soap can mix with the minerals in water and leave a film…that's why typically we wash our clothes with detergent…to keep them from from turning grayish. Hope this helps….a little. :-) I'm still learning…

  4. Becky in South Carolina says

    I'm like a crack head! I rush every morning to get my cup of coffee (while my laptop boots up) and get my homemaking assignment for the day! Your blog has helped me to enjoy my home again! Thank you, Jillee!

  5. Anonymous says

    I've been using just Dawn in my dishwasher for some time and Jet Dry for the rinse. Dawn works great & doesn't leave the film that the dishwasher stuff does. I'm going to try the Oxi add-in and see what happens. Thanks!

  6. melfulton says

    Looking foward to trying this. However, has anyone else noticed that using vinegar as a rinse agent seems to turn any aluminum based cookware/pans a darker color? I guess it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things and it's really on an aesthetic kind of thing, but when i was using vinegar in my dishwashers dispenser, that was the first thing I noticed.

    • Ellen Gardner says

      Washing aluminum in the dishwasher has always oxidized my pans. Try soaking them in a sink full of hot water and some dissolved cream of tartar, about 2 tablespoons. This should brighten them back up. If not, its the steel wool pad and elbow grease, and a lesson learned.

    • mylynn1377 says

      Beware of washing certain pans with vinegar. I actually rusted a muffin pan that way. Plus some of my newer skillets and cookie sheets recommended hand washing as the best option so I never have put them in the dishwasher.

  7. labbie1 says

    Interesting! I think I will try this one. I found that using lemi shine with my regular dishwashing packets has really made a difference in the sparkly effect, but your way seems much more cost effective! Thanks!

    • Jamie says

      Yes! I’ve got uber hard water and the only time my dishes have been spotless (per se) has been with Lemishine. But it costs too much to use all the time. I’m trying this!

  8. The Rusty Ranch says

    I might give this one a go. I've been really down since the last recipe I tried left my dishes filmy and dirty. Now I have a huge batch that I don't know what to do with. Thanks for the "recipe".

    • Betty P says

      The first time I tried the homemade dish washing powder I was not thrilled, but after some more research I found several corrections to make based upon your water and needs. SO here are a few things you could try to “Fix” you batch.
      1.I added salt; this was recommended from a site/commenter to increase the scrubbing power and helps to reduce the film.
      2.You must add lemon-shinee or citric acid (kool aide around 5-10 packets depending on how much you make) this also assist with cutting the film from the dishes and cutting the grease..
      3.Adjust the amount of borax if it was used in your batch, borax has to have very hot water to dissolve well. You can reduce it in your next batch. I reduced it by 1/3
      4.One thing I did…..I measured, I mean really measured the amount I put in the dishwasher I didn’t eye ball it. You will be surprised at how much less you use if you do this. Part 2 to this is you / your water may not need the 2Tbls (one in each compartment) may be you could try to cut it by half and see if it improves.
      5.Add a FEW!!! FEW drops of conventional liquid dish soap in with the homemade auto dish detergent. This was recommended form another site/commenter and I tried it and it worked very well.
      6.Also, for any dis washer to work at its best the hot water temp must be correct check you manufacturers recommendations and adjust your water heater if needed.
      7.Last but by all means not least YOU MUST KEEP IN AIR TIGHT CONTAINTER, otherwise it will get hard and not usable.

      I hope this helps. I will note, when adding liquid dish soap you can not add much or it will overflow, you have been warned!!!

  9. Jen says

    I am so in love with everything that I have seen so far in your blog. I wish that I could "like" some of the comments (FB spoiled). I will be teaching my daughter this method as she is the child designated to wash dishes. I'll play it off as a science experiment to see if that makes her like washing them a bit more (than not at all). Thank you!

  10. Anonymous says

    This sounds great! My dishwasher has 2 detergent spots…one for the pre-wash and one for the main wash. Should I just not worry about the pre-wash and put this in the main wash dispenser?

    Thanks for all the great ideas!

    • pdasilva says

      I use water softening salt (the kind used in water treatment system). I put a handful in the dispenser as I usually use the tabs and it works great for hard water which we have.(on a well)

  11. Anonymous says

    Does this work better than your homemade dishwasher DETERGENT recipe then? Also, does the vinegar work better in a cup or bowl on the top rack than just putting it in the bottom?

    • Griff says

      The blue dawn works better for cutting grease for some strange reason.
      When I worked in restaurants, it is what we used on the floor in the kitchen to deep scrub.
      Squirt it straight onto the floor, add HOT water, and use a scrub brush on it.
      Squeegee the soapy water into the drain, mop the the entire floor with clean water, then dry mop, and you are done.

      • Cydne says

        Many of the other Dawn soaps are listed as a “hand soap” whereas the blue is a “dishwashing liquid.” Lots have added conditioning ingredients to them. I don’t know what the effect might be on cleaning.

        However, Dawn repeatedly stunk up my dishcloths and my laundry when I used it in my homemade laundry detergent. I did some online research and others had complained about this in the last few years – it seems the problem was only with Dawn and only in areas with hard water. So I tried Palmolive & it has worked just great and everything smells wonderful.

        So I don’t really buy the “blue Dawn” hype anymore, as long as you make sure that you are not getting a “hand soap.”

  12. Anonymous says

    The recipe I use is I cut your liquid homemade laundry soap recipe in 1/4 which makes 3/4 gallon and then I cut down the soap to a 1/4 of a bar and use Ivory instead of felsnaptha then I added 5 packs of lemon koolaid if your water is hard add a little salt to this recipe use vinegar for your rinse and walla I end up with a couple of spots on my glasses but no build up no film and it's less spots than I get with hand washing. I have used this for a month now and love it! I ONLY USE A HALF A TEASPOON.

  13. Anonymous says

    I actually use your liquid laundry soap recipe for the dishwasher with a few tweeks I cut the recipe in 1/4 (3/4gallon) then changed the soap to Ivory rather than Felsnaptha and cut that down to 1/6 to 1/4 (just eyeballed) followed the instructions for the laundry soap and then added 5 packs of lemon Koolaid. If your water is harder add about 1/2 cup salt to this. I use vinegar in the rinse. YOU ONLY HAVE TO USE 1/2 TEASPOON OF THIS. This recipe is on the runny side so I usually fill up an old hand dish soap bottle to dispense from. I LOVE THIS

  14. Anonymous says

    i have tried just the borax and b soda as a powder in the diswhasher dispenser, then vinegar but that hasn't worked. the other day i tried ivory dishsoap and a mix of borax and b soda then vinegar. that worked great!!! all the dishes were sparkly. today i am gunna try the dawn but there is a different kind with olay in it. so i guess i will see if it works!!

  15. Erica says

    I made a homemade dish. detergent before Christmas with Lemonade Koolaid (later I found out about straight citric acid). The recipe filled a large Tupperware cereal container (with the flip top) and so far I’ve only skimmed off the top inch or so. After I spent some time breaking up the hardened parts, the bottom half still remains solid. I even put in a couple silicone packets (that come out of new purses, jerky, etc.). Alas, I am determined to use this up before I make more (hoping it’ll take less than 5 yrs–lol!). I have been happy with the results…glasses are still shiny. I like it much better with a splash of vinegar in the bottom (along with the JetDry in the dispenser). My mom made hers with Lime Koolaid (store was out of Lemonade) and is having lots of trouble with filmy glasses. I’ll tell her about this; hopefully it will help.

  16. Allene says

    Tried this using my home-made alternative to Oxy (equal parts baking soda & hydrogen peroxide) and it works great! A little bit of a starchy feel to a few things, but they’re still cleaner than with the commercial stuff. I’ve been using vinegar as a rinse aid for a couple months now because the store-bought wasn’t doing a thing.

  17. says

    We are on vacation and really didn’t want to run to the market (a 20 minute drive down the hill) so thought we would try this out. Although we didn’t have any oxyclean so just used bleach… The dishes came out clean but suds did escape the dishwasher… guess we need to go to the store after all.

  18. Kathy says

    Yikes..I ended up with suds making their escape, too….I notice that my dawn is “dawn ultra”–was worried that was the problem, but it looks like in your picture, you’ve got “ultra” too….

    Suds Rebellion Averted:
    Once I saw the suds, I turned off the machine, advanced it to rinse just before rince, and let the machine run till it stopped pumping out the old water, turned it off again… LOTS of suds in there, so scooped out the bulk of the suds still left, then advanced the dial again to the very beginning. It was STILL pretty sudsy in there but no more suds gushing forth. Just advanced to rinse, so checked on a few items I know where a bit scummy, and they look OK!! Wondering how much we can decrease the Dawn and still have it be effective. Hmmmm.

  19. Kathy says

    Yikes..I ended up with suds making their escape, too….I notice that my dawn is “dawn ultra”–was worried that was the problem, but it looks like in your picture, you’ve got “ultra” too….

    Suds Rebellion Averted:
    Once I saw the suds, I turned off the machine, advanced it to rinse just before rince, and let the machine run till it stopped pumping out the old water, turned it off again… LOTS of suds in there, so scooped out the bulk of the suds still left, then advanced the dial again to the very beginning. It was STILL pretty sudsy in there but no more suds gushing forth. Just advanced to rinse, so checked on a few items I know were a bit scummy, and they look OK!! Wondering how much we can decrease the Dawn and still have it be effective. Hmmmm.

  20. Kala says

    I’ve been using this since you posted it and I still have a film. I’ve tried playing around with how much dawn and sun and I can’t seem to get it to work. And the vinegar in the bowl didn’t help either. Any suggestions?

  21. Carli says

    Although Im not sold on this idea, I needed to use it last night because I am getting sick of the film left behind on my dishes from the other DIY detergent, and I didn’t have time to run to the store to pick up store bought, so I thought…”What the heck. Ill give it a try” Well, it did work very well and did not suds up out my machine (which I was very nervous about). But one thing that compelled me to write to you is, we drink a lot of iced tea…I mean A LOT! We have an ice tea maker and all our plastic cups are stained to no end. Well, you guessed it…one run thru the dishwasher with this combo and BAM all my plastic cups and ice tea pitcher looked like brand spankin NEW! No stains! So, like I said, Im still not sold on this for an every day venture, but for stained plastic wear (oh yea and my husband’s coffee stained mugs looked amazing too!), I will use this til the end of time! Thanks a ton!

  22. Babsy says

    Hey Jillie….Babsy here.

    Glad to see you tried the recipe in my post. However, the whole reason for using the natural castile soap tho, and the no-fragrance SUN oxygen cleaner is to remove toxic products from your house and your environment…especially around children. Dawn can be toxic to breathe, as well as for use on your skin, and contains SLS. Fragrances in both the Dawn and the other types of oxygen cleaners are hormone disruptors–most times it take years for problems to develop. Even tho it is natural, I do not use the vinegar in the dishwasher….never had a need for it. The few times I tried it many years back I found that IT was one of the ingredients that contributed to keeping my glassware from being sparkling and clear.

    Chemicals will ALWAYS perform better than natural ingredients…..that’s a given….but with a tremendous price to pay. We are being fooled into feeling we have to have chemically- altered-blinding-white undies or fake-rain-forest-scented laundry. It’s not healthy at all and can be downright deadly. We have to change our thinking…..otherwise we are just using the same old toxic ingredients but doing it on the cheap.

    Health is always easier to keep in good shape than to try to recapture it later when we’ve lost it. And always more expensive…..if we can recapture it at all, that is. Sadly, I see that being frugal too often seems to take a back seat to being healthy.

    Natural, fresh smelling, high-performance, inexpensive and easy to make — but MOST IMPORTANTLY…non toxic cleaning. You will find it’s really all you need and that you aren’t missing a thing.

    • Melanie says

      Just a question (and I am not being snarky, I really want to know). What about the lye that’s used in castille soap? That stuff is EXTREMELY caustic and very dangerous. Maybe the chemical reaction that makes the soap makes it not dangerous? The way that sodium and chlorine can combine to make table salt?

      • Lorrie says

        Melanie, the process through which soap is made is called “saponification.” When this process takes place, the caustic substance (lye) mixes with fat and turns into something else (soap). There is no caustic substance left as a chemical reaction has taken place. :)


  23. heather says

    I don’t doubt that this works, but one of the reasons I chose to make my own products was to avoid soaps like dawn… But my recipe is half cup kosher salt, half cup citric acid, 1 cup borax 1 cup washing soda, vinegar in the rinse compartment. A brown sugar bear (a Terra cotta bear soaked in water) helps the stuff from becoming solid. I’ve also found that if you use too much detergent then there is more clouding.

  24. Dakota says

    I am thinking of trying this to save money not to save the earth. After checking many many sites, I think I like this one the best. Most of the products I have seen here are products we already use. Dawn is the only dish washing soap I use. It is the only one that gets my pots and pans clean without a greasy residue. After searching the internet I haven’t found one piece of evidence to prove Dawn is a danger to anything. Anyway I am rambling.
    I will give this a shot and if it doesn’t work I will go back to my little blue tablets. I do want to try this before I run out, so if it doesn’t work, I won’t have to run back to the store.

    • Babsy says

      The intention is not to save the earth; it’s condition gets better as we work responsibly with toxic substances…the important thing is to save our health. Chemicals are always dangerous….and not needed. I don’t want to wait until I have been using them for years to find out that they are bad for me! :) And it’s wonderful to find that in saving my health by using real, natural, and non-toxic products…I save money too!

  25. Lisa says

    Found your site today through Pinterest (love, love, love that site) and had to try this TONIGHT! Well, all I have to say is WOW! I had tried the homemade version with washing soda et al, without much sucess (it left white film all over everything!). Then I switched back to cascade and IT left white powder all of everything, too! Tonight was the first time in weeks that I didn’t have to wipe the black plastic utensils off! Thank you so much!

  26. says

    Tried this with a more eco-friendly, phosphate-free detergent instead of Dawn last night and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Everything was clean and the glass was all very sparkly!

  27. Selma says

    This was working great for me for about a week then my dishwasher started leaking a lot of water at the rinse cycle. I switched back to the store bought and it stopped. I really want to use this method, can anyone help me with this?

  28. Trish says

    This is amazing!! I’m new to the make your own world and so far I’m loving it! Thanks for all the great ideas! Thank you for all the simpler versions of things also! I’m lazy and love the no boil, no grate recipes!

  29. Karen says

    I just tried 3 drops of dawn – 2 in the 1st washer thing (what are these called??) and 1 drop in the one that closes. Then I put like 1/4 cup distilled vinegar in the rinse aid and the dishes are sparkly clean!

  30. Mary says

    I know the Cascade pacs have Dawn in them so a little Dawn would be ok. Dawn is what they use to clean oil off animals after an oil spill so is it really that toxic?

    My main problem is that the little door doesn’t work like it should and the soap doesn’t get released at all. I put the dishwashing stuff in the bottom and it gets washed away in the first rinse. So I’ve been watching and waiting and putting the soap in at the right time. :p

    I’ve had to stop putting plastics in altogether because of the white film. I never thought of putting the vinegar on top like that though. I’ll definitely be trying that!

    I’ve tried the lemonade kool-aid packets and didn’t see that they did much other than smell like kool aid.

    But the oxy-clean is new to me. I will try this soon.

    • Tracy J says

      If dawn is toxic – I’m screwed!!! Dawn is the ONLY dish detergent I use, and I use it as a pre-treat for stains in clothing. I do know that they use it on animals — and it cuts oil like magic. (on old shirts that had to become “old” because I got grease spots on them (salad dressing, butter, etc) I put some dawn on them – scrubbed with an old toothbrush – and the “old” shirts are now perfect and back in the regular clothes rotation!!)
      I’ve used dawn for many, many, many years…… toxic? sigh. :(


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